East of Seattle News Editorial
April 5, 2016
A recent public hearing at City Hall Northwest on the Issaquah School District’s proposed construction and maintenance bond attracted exactly one speaker: a member of the Issaquah School Board, who spoke in favor of the $533 million question that is going before voters this month.
It’s apparent the district has a good thing going. It seems as if every time the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction releases new education statistics, Issaquah shines. Chronic absenteeism? Among the lowest in the state. Graduation rates? Among the highest. One local housing development under construction trumpeted the “renowned Issaquah School District” in its promotional materials.
And those housing developments are the reason property taxes would not rise if voters approve the bond. Issaquah’s explosive growth, adding more and more residents to the tax base, means the district can ask citizens for half a billion dollars and still keep the tax rate at or below the current $4.14 per $1,000 of assessed property value. That’s $2,070 if your home is valued at $500,000.
All those new residents are bringing new students with them. The district says it has grown by more than 2,000 students in the past four years and expects to add between 1,500 and 2,000 students in the next five. Hence, the need for school construction.
The bond would pay for a new high school, the district’s fourth, at a budgeted cost of $120 million, according to the district. A new middle school, the district’s sixth, is projected to cost $74 million. A rebuild of Pine Lake Middle School will run $71 million. Two new elementary schools are expected to cost a combined $74 million. And land acquisition for the four brand-new schools is budgeted at $97 million.
In addition, six existing elementary schools would be remodeled and modernized at a projected cost of $7 million to $9 million each.
If the bond fails, taxes would drop, but not significantly. According to statistics provided by the district, by 2019, the tax rate would decline to about $3.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value, or $1,750 on a $500,000 home. Is that reduction of less than $300 annually in taxes worth overcrowded schools and outdated facilities?
Vote yes on the Issaquah School District bond April 26.